I’m going to be honest, this list was harder than I first thought and that is because I made the decision early on to not include anime from fantasy historical settings. They had to be real places (or close enough). Now, that doesn’t mean my choices are based on historical accuracy, because they definitely aren’t, but I just wanted to exclude all the vaguely European/pseudo-medieval fantasy settings before I began thinking through the list. That said, there are still a few anime, like Princess Principal, that just didn’t make the final list. So as always, I’d love to know what some of your favourites are so be sure to leave me a comment below.
Number 5: Sirius the Jaeger
Admittedly, this one is a newer anime for me as I’ve only watched it recently, but I had a lot of fun with it. I also enjoyed the 1930’s setting in Tokyo and the travelling about the group did. While it probably isn’t going to get massive points for historical accuracy (not entirely convinced about vampires plotting to take over the world and working with factions of the Japanese military), the time period felt very much a part of the story and the setting was very nicely integrated. All and all, this one was just fun to watch.
Number 4: 91 Days
Set in the Prohibition Era (1920’s – 1930’s), 91 Days isn’t set in a real place but is kind of a composite of fairly similar places in America during the era. And again, the setting is very much a part of the story and the era, and its many cliches that have been constructed largely through fiction, are very much integrated into this story. I really did like the set up for this anime and the setting was great, or at least it was different from another Japanese classroom setting, so while I found the middle of the narrative got a little lost, I really did enjoy a lot of aspects of 91 Days.
Number 3: Baccano
Well, we’re still stuck around the 1930’s, but this time we’re in Chicago. Baccano is just fun from start to finish with larger than life characters all with their own stories being interwoven in a fast paced mess that comes together beautifully by the end. Whether you are enjoying the story of the immortals gangsters, wondering what happened to the missing brother, following the massacre on the train, or any of the other events, Baccano is one story that knew exactly what it wanted to be and it took the audience on an incredibly ride.
Number 2: Katanagatari
I knew at some point on this list I’d have to include something from the Edo period in Japan, and then I remembered Katanagatari is incredibly loosely set in the real world and not a fantasy setting. Now, I loved this anime and I’ve recently fallen in love with the first volume of the books, and it is just a great story in its simplicity. Two characters are trying to collect 12 swords. There’s a lot of politics and character background information that fleshes out what seems like an incredibly simple story, but ultimately this one is really fun, visually stunning, and the setting is fantastic.
Number 1: Black Butler
It is a good thing I clarified I didn’t care about historical accuracy because one friend of mine at least found Black Butler truly dreadful. Set in the Victorian era in England, the story follows a young Earl and his butler as they go about solving mysteries on behalf of the Queen and while the Earl tries to find those responsible for the death of his parents and his own trauma. And yeah, there’s a lot of liberties taken with the setting and time period but I absolutely love Black Butler so it had to top this list.
As I said, I’d love to know your top picks so be sure to leave a comment.
Arthifis and I are joining forces once again this season to bring you coverage of two anime. We’ll catch up after four episodes and share our thoughts. Here on 100 Word Anime we’ll be discussing Meiji Tokyo Renka and over on The Shelter we will be getting into The Rising of the Shield Hero. Hopefully you will join us on our journey and share your thoughts on both of these shows as the season unfolds.
I’ll be the one in red and Arthifis will be blue and bold. Hope you enjoy.
Hey Arthifis, welcome back. It is great to be working with you again this season and covering another two anime with you. How are you today?
Hey there Karandi! I have to say the same to you! I’m thrilled to do this with you again this season! Especially, because I think we were able to pick 2 strong Anime shows in this season! One who is more popular and other a little more underrated, but both have surprised in a very nice way! 😀 I’m good thanks! 🙂 Trying to have my head over water with all the Anime shows I still have to cover haha what about you?
Well, I kind of came down sick which doesn’t surprise me given things have gotten super busy in the real world and next week is looking to be a killer. However, that just means there is more reason to watch anime because I’m not exactly wanting to go out and about.
Ooooh! Sorry to hear that! I can understand you very well! Life has been pretty crazy in the past few weeks, but I’ve managed not to get ill… At least for now! Hope you get better soon!
You are definitely right in that we picked two strong anime. I wasn’t actually expecting all that much from Meiji Tokyo Renka but so far it has actually managed to be pretty decent and seems to be getting better. I do enjoy being pleasantly surprised by anime.
Yeah, completely! I had the same idea as you, that basically, the twist the Anime had was going to be thrown away for the reverse harem factor. However, it has not been the case so far. The anime has been pretty interesting and funny so far.
Where do you want to start? I do have a lot to say about this one, so it’s better that you take the lead and conduct this conversation, if not I think I’ll just start speaking in circles haha
Now I feel like I’m standing in front an orchestra and counting down, but okay. I think we should probably look at the premise first. As you said, it seemed at first like we were just getting another time travel gimmick that would quickly get forgotten or sidelined for the harem side of the story, but they actually seem committed to their premise. It is a pleasant change after Sengoku Night Blood last year kind of did a similar thing but then didn’t do anything with it. So far, Meiji Tokyo Renka seems like it is actually taking the fact that Mei has travelled through time seriously, and the fact that she can see spirits fairly seriously. I’m really liking it. How about you?
Well, I can’t say anything about Sengoku Night Blood because I haven’t watched it! But, when it comes to Meiji Tokyo Renka, I’m with you! In fact, it’s very nice to see that both harems of the season have been very interesting Anime to watch, this one and Gotoubun no Hanayome.
There are a lot of things that makes me enjoying Mei so much, so I’ll try to cut it down! First, how Mei is a very fun and sweet character to follow. She’s so freaking clumsy and not lady like at all… It’s actually nice to see that she is like that when she does not feel that she is going to be ridiculed or something like that by being herself. In episode 1 for example, we see a way more gloomy Mei.
Then, I also loved the “Ghost Whisper” kind of episode! It completely focused in the premise of the show which is Mei being able to see ghosts! It was nice to see her using her power to help someone. Clearly, that will make her more confident of herself.
Next, it’s the music, but I’ll let that one for later.
Last, but not the least, I love how Mei does not seem actually interested in most of the handsome guys the show presented… I mean, she doesn’t even remember to meet that handsome actor which all girls seem to be in love with! She was way more interesting in the meat haha
What about you? What are the main points you like the most about the Anime?
I definitely like Mei. Episode one I was worried we were getting another token blank slate protagonist to be shoved about by the guys and the plot and she did kind of seem that way. The whole amnesia thing was kind of a red flag for me because mostly that just seems to serve as a plot excuse to make the central female character completely passive as things happen around her and to her.
Fortunately, Mei didn’t stay in this blank slate mode very long. Despite missing some of her memories she seems very much her own person and while she does get dragged around from time to time, she’s making her own choices. I really liked when she met the guy in episode 2 (the magician whose name I cannot remember) and he pretty much told her she could get home again once the next full moon came so she might as well enjoy herself. I thought it was great how she took on that advice and decided to embrace her ability to see ghosts, something she had never been able to do.
I also really like her fixation on food, to the point where she doesn’t remember the guy at the party because she was focused on the plate of meat he was holding. In that way she kind of reminds me of Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club. Yes she’s surrounded by all these apparently attractive guys but she’s just not interested.
That said, I’m curious about Ougai and the whole fiancee thing because he sometimes seems like he’s kidding and other times like he’s dead serious and while I get how it benefits Mei I haven’t figured out why it benefits him yet. Any ideas?
Hmmm… Well, I had the same feeling as you, until episode 4. After episode 4, where we see that everyone is trying to make him marry a girl from a noble family (something that is pretty normal for the Meiji Era), I think what he benefits from all of that, is that, this way he can say that he is already taken and doesn’t have to concede to his family pressure.
However, I believe that when he announced Mei as his fiancee in the first episode, the solely purpose was to protect her from the ghost hunter (I can’t remember his name). Basically, she was going to get killed in that moment if Ougai didn’t use his status and power to save her.
We’re both doing well with remembering the guy’s names. Honestly, I’ve been writing up episode reviews of this for my patrons and yet I still end up having to search for the names. And it isn’t that the characters aren’t memorable, I remember who they are and what they did, but their names just go straight out of my head.
Hahaha well, I think that’s what happens when you have around 10 guys introduced to you right in the first episode! It’s just way too many names to get right from the bat! It’s like when you start a new job and in the first day your boss presents to everyone in your team… After 5 minutes you just can’t remember anyone’s name xD
On the other hand, the other thing I like is how many nods they are giving to the era. It isn’t like they just gave the cast a wardrobe change and said, hey we’re in the Meiji era. The entertainment, the social circles, the cost of items, everything seems to be trying to create a believable time period for the audience and the sense that Mei isn’t where she belongs. While I’m not into history enough to know how historically accurate it is, I actually feel like this anime is making an effort to produce at least the feeling of an era.
Regarding the era… Thanks for bringing that up, it was something that I wanted to discuss. I’m loving that we are getting a lot of Meiji Era references. Being in the background, or actually how Mei ends up facing different ways of doing things! I mean, I love that for her to understand the price of things it has to be by knowing how many beef bowls she could buy with said money!
But, more than that, I love that things that are completely normal and everyone knows in Japan at the present, when Mei shows those skills in the Meiji Era, she seems to be a very intelligent person. Like knowing Shakespeare or knowing how to properly eat with a fork and a knife (something that of course, in Japan was only for the high class). I also loved how she just created a mop to help the maid in doing her job easily and faster haha It just made me think how different things are today versus 150 years ago…
Okay, so you wanted to talk about the music as well?
Yeah! Well, I just wanted to say that I love most of it haha I could live without the more cheesy soundtracks when we are seeing more “romantic” scenes, but all the rest is actually pretty good. In fact, the intro song may be one of the best of the season! Do you like it?
I don’t dislike it, but it hasn’t really stood out to me all that much. In fact, most of the music here as felt pretty standard for this type of show. It isn’t bad but I’m not paying that much attention to it. Though you are right about the cheesy music in those moonlit scenes with whichever guy Mei happens to currently be near. It is all a little much but also quite expected.
Really? Oh I love the jazz-ish music of the intro!
Well, on my side I just have one thing I want to discuss, which is basically the only thing bad that I have to say about this Anime which is about the Animation movement and the eyes design.
When it comes to the animation movement I just feel there are way too many static frames. I know that it’s something you are used to see on these kind of Anime, but, I mean… For 2019, it’s way too much!
The eyes thing, is about the shadow they use when a certain character is not the focus of the scene. I believe it’s just a way to make it faster to be drawn. I mean, it’s easier (and cheaper) to do just a shadow than a pair of eyes… However, how it is done, it just feels the characters are plotting something evil all the time haha
I get what you mean about the static frames. It does make screen capping a lot easier but it kind of gives away the whole based on a game kind of thing. And as you said, it is pretty standard for this type of show to use it, but it does seem excessive. Which is a shame because the art is gorgeous in a lot of these scenes but they barely feel animated at times.
The eye thing hasn’t really bothered me but now that you’ve pointed it out I guess I’ll see if I notice it more in the next episode.
As for negatives, probably my biggest one so far is that I’m not seeing much of a central plot just yet. Sure she’s gone back in time and lot’s of stuff has happened and I guess her finding her way home could be the whole story, but it would be nice to think there was a little bit more to the plot then that.
I don’t really agree with you in the plot 😛 I think that the plot is going to be about Mei, more than finding her way home, finding herself and be able to become content with the thing of seeing spirits. It’s sort of a come of age if you want…
Though it’s not even half as good as Natsume, I believe Mei will end up meeting every single guy, work her magic, make those guys fall for her (it is a reverse harem after all), but in the end, with meeting all these guys who are able to see spirits, guys who WANT to see spirits, or even just being there to protect her like Ougai it will make her to be a happier person and, more importantly, more confident of herself.
Yes, they kind of seem to be setting up a Voyage and Return story, similar to Alice in Wonderland and the journey Mei goes on will probably change her. Is it wrong that I’d like a little more than just a character journey though? I have nothing against a good self-discovery story but it would be nice if in the process there was some ongoing story for them to work with. And I know that is kind of contrary given I do love shows like Natsume that kind of pride themselves on being very character centric over the plot.
Either way, this one has so far been pretty pleasant to watch so even if I don’t get a central plot to work with, I’ll be pretty happy watching Mei continue to grow. It just won’t be quite as memorable for me. Anything else you would like to add?
Hmmm, I can see your point of view! Well, maybe we will be able to see a nice romantic relationship happening along the way? I’m not sure how… Unless she ends up wanting to stay in the Meiji Era or one of the guys end up going to the present with her? But, being the source a game, I’m pretty sure that the game is for you to build the relationships with the guys xD
I don’t really have much to add! I’m also really liking the Anime and it’s been pretty pleasant so far. In fact, I believe this is going to be probably one of the most underrated Anime shows of the Winter Season!
This one isn’t going to rank overly high in terms of my favourites of the season. It isn’t strong enough on the production side and it isn’t a genre I’m overly fond of. That said, I haven’t got much to say about it that is negative and mostly I’ve been enjoying each episode for what it is. So this one is joining My Roommate is a Cat in my list of anime just to kind of chill out to this season and enjoy for what it is.
It was great having you Arthifis, though I guess we better get over to the Shelter and discuss Shield Hero.
Thank you for having me here once again Karandi! Yeah, let’s go the shelter so we can protect ourselves from the cold… Though where you live it’s actually summer at the moment lolol… Well, it’s a shelter, it protects from the cold AND the heat! (It has air conditioner xD)
I feel like we’ve seen this all before. Meet a girl in the modern world, contrive some reason, or no reason, and suddenly poof she’s in a historical setting with a vaguely supernatural twist. Okay, I’m getting a distinct Sengoku Night Blood kind of vibe from this one and that isn’t necessarily a favourable comparison.
However, rather than comparing it to another show that has a similar premise and is also based on a game, let’s look at the first episode of Meiji Tokyo Renka.
We meet Mei, our heroine, in the modern world and quickly establish she’s a loner because she can see ghosts and as a kid she didn’t realise other people couldn’t and she got a reputation as a weirdo. It is a generic enough back story but surprisingly quickly established and the heroine seems to actually have a reasonably positive outlook despite her loner status.
Soon she meets a magician who puts her in a box and poof she’s transported into the past. This is where the anime kind of lost me a bit (though I’ll admit I wasn’t really buying in even from the start). Straight away she meets two of the pretty boys from the opening and we establish that her memory is a little messed up. While she remembers things like her headphones and names of certain historical figures, she needed to be told her own name by what I assume was the fox spirit.
What little personality heroine may have had quickly evaporates into the usual look at everything a bit blankly and answer yes to a lot of stuff. Oh right, I forgot our heroine likes roast beef. Does that count as a personality trait?
I didn’t actually hate this one, but past experience with this set up has convinced me not to have particularly high hopes. I’ll keep watching because even when these sorts of stories play out exactly as expected they are watchable but again, I don’t have much in the way of an expectation that this will be anything more than brightly coloured filler.
Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary has been heading for a tragic end for awhile and right now it is kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The Empress is in a state of emotional turmoil after sentencing Ning to water torture last week (and Ning has fully gone off the deep end after experiencing said water torture). All this has done is emboldened the Empress’ enemies and they are now moving far more openly against her.
Meanwhile, Zhao has thrown himself fully into his work. Last week though I made the comment that he was doing nothing about Ning and apparently that is untrue. He’s been sending petitions to the Empress to receive her pardon. Petitions the Empress hasn’t been reading. Way to be a great friend and all. Still, there’s a massive construct to complete before the series end because if it doesn’t even get finished it will be the sub-plot that’s gone nowhere and I’d have to wonder what the point was.
Also meanwhile, Yin has finally accepted joining the rebel family and now has more brothers and sisters. She’s still totally brooding about Ning though. Good thing this anime isn’t in to making us wait as Ning returns, insane and powered up, ready to fight her sister to the death.
At this point the battle between the rebels and the empire is almost superfluous to the central characters’ personal dramas. One thing is for sure, Ning has definitely misplaced all of her anger onto her sister and it doesn’t look like she’s coming back from that any time soon.
Zhao’s character has been a curiosity from the beginning given despite being enslaved he ultimately chose to pursue power within the empire after it was offered to him. His lack of understanding of Yin’s disgust with the idea of serving an empire that wiped out their village was odd to say the least. See, I’d get his character if he knew the empire was evil but had decided that it was worth siding with them for the opportunity to have power. But instead, he’d kind of convinced himself that those getting wiped out deserved it because they were weak and the empire was right all along. It was a little bit odd.
However, despite the Empress’ favour, or perhaps because of it, Zhao wasn’t in the secure position he thought he’d established and these episodes bring that to the front loud and clear. As those plotting around the Empress seek to bring her down, it is only natural that Zhao’s weakness be exposed and Ning, who in episode 7 essentially ditched her sister for the chance to be with Zhao, became the lynch-pin that brought all of Zhao’s ambitions and prior achievements tumbling down.
To say that there are some uncomfortable moments in these episodes would be a bit of an understatement, and for once I’m not talking about the cringe worthy CG animation during fight sequences (though there is plenty of that as well). Seeing Cheng enraged that her toy has others he cares about and taking that anger out on Ning, who is without her arms and chained, is pretty horrific. As is Zhao’s decision after he’s been demoted four ranks and ordered to build his ultimate death machine to just suck it up and get on with it. Not one even vague thought that maybe he should use those secret passages Cheng showed off to him to maybe try and rescue Ning. It never even crosses his mind.
However, the moment that really hits is the water torture. Not only do we get some horrible insight into what is going on in Ning’s mind while the drops of water continue to flow but we also see that Cheng is nearly self-destructing after inflicting the punishment. At least she didn’t delegate the task, which she was well within her rights to, but the previously composed child-ruler is clearly coming unhinged now. None of the three characters have come out of this scheme unscathed and Cheng’s enemies are delighted and becoming more open in their preparations to perhaps take her out.
All of this is interspersed with cuts to the rebels, who for once weren’t the more interesting story. Instead we get some pretty ordinary action sequences and even after they unveil their new magic armour, it actually just makes the next fight sequence dull to watch. Yin is still a mopey character and while I kind of get her role in all of this, she wasn’t fun to watch and the absence of Ning really hurt her scenes as she no longer has anyone to bounce off of.
Still, with three episodes to go there’s quite a lot that can happen and my only real wish is that Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary does come to an end properly because leaving this story hanging will kind of hurt. I’ve really enjoyed the plot and the intrigues even if the animation and visuals haven’t quite been up to the same level of ambition.
To be honest, I’m not super into realistic historical settings or period drama style anime so when I first started Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion, I wasn’t really expecting much. Still there’s definitely something about those first episodes that grab your attention and even though the show has its flaws, I’m still pretty happy with the watch through.
For people who watch a lot of seasonal anime there’s definitely a small problem of becoming a little fatigued with seeing similar set ups and plots play out over and over again. Particularly when you follow some genres more than others you definitely start to notice a saminess to your viewing so it isn’t surprising that when something comes along that gets your attention that isn’t something from your normal genre, there’s a novelty factor that comes from watching it that makes it pretty pleasant.
And for me, that’s kind of how it was with Angolmois. Definitely not my usual kind of thing because I’m not a huge fan of period pieces, I don’t really like Samurai stories, and based on real events in history does little to really engage me. However, this anime was different enough and my watch list small enough this Summer that I decided to strap in and go for it. I don’t regret that choice but I’m kind of left on the fence about whether I really enjoyed it or whether it really was just the novelty of it that made it stand out (and for people who watch a lot of historical/samurai stories it is probably missing the novelty factor).
Ultimately, I think Angolmois is fine. There are some great moments along the way and some not so food moments. There’s some interesting characters that we learn little to nothing about. The plot is kept pretty straight forward with the Mongols invading the island and the local Japanese people trying to survive while not wanting to leave their land and the exiles who end up tasked with helping them (not that the exiles have all that much choice given leaving the island isn’t exactly an option for most of the anime).
However, fine isn’t exactly a huge recommendation and to be honest, in a busier season I probably wouldn’t bother with this one. There are just too many strikes against it so that even those moments that were really fun and engaging end up mostly forgotten by the end.
Of course, the biggest hurdle with this one is the filter over every single scene. I’m thinking they are trying to make it look historical or something, but mostly it just serves as a distraction in the early episodes and more than that, it is hideous. Character faces end up blotchy, and when we get a panning shot and the filter doesn’t move it actually made me feel a little queasy during early episodes. Admittedly, by the time you get to the second half of the season, your eyes have finally just accepted it and mostly filter out the filter but occasionally a scene will bring it back into jarring focus reminding you just how ugly this anime really is.
It doesn’t help that the majority of the characters are pretty ugly to look at as well even without the filter. Now I’m not saying that every anime character needs to be a pretty boy or whatever, but this cast is a motley collection of generally unattractive character designs and while it is likely a deliberate choice given the tone of the show, that doesn’t make it any more pleasant to look at.
Okay, I’m going to move away from the cosmetics and actually look at the characters now. Despite actually kind of enjoying the early episodes, other that Teruhi and Jinzaburou, and later Kano, none of the character names stuck. It took forever just to distinguish the different exiles as individual people and not just the ‘exiles’ and then we have the Japanese from the island and multiple Mongol armies all with characters that are thrown at us. It is overcrowded and impossible to learn anything of real note about anyone which is probably where the show stumbles hardest. It is really difficult to care about their amazing climactic battle where they linger on a death and you have to do a double take just to remind yourself whether you knew who that character was, and then you certainly don’t care.
So realistically this show either needed more episodes so we could spend actual time with these characters and get to know them, or it just needed to narrow its focus right down onto the characters who mattered. Not choosing either option means we get a very superficial look at way too many characters, most of whom will die before the final credits roll.
Like most historical anime, the characters all have their honour and rules that they live by. They regularly spout platitudes about their honour or life or whatever before doing something either stupid or brave or whatever. But again, knowing so little about the character makes these moments feel very tagged on and given we know so little about them we can’t figure out how this particular choice feeds into a greater character because it just isn’t there.
The Magistrate suffered horribly because he clearly had a code and clearly made some choices because of it, but we never had the time to learn enough about him to really understand what was driving him. By the time he died he just seemed like a silly man holding onto a handful of a sand as the wind tried to blow it away. The traitor from the exiles as well never had enough time for us to really understand why he made the choices he made and his character ended up feeling fairly shallow and inconsistent because of it and made his betrayal have very little impact emotionally even if it did drive the plot to its inevitable conclusion.
I really did look forward to this show most weeks and it isn’t as though it is a train wreck. It just comes up short in too many ways for me to really recommend it. Still, if you want a break from isekai, harem, high school, or the other standard anime types, this one might be a breath of fresh air… assuming of course slaughter and war work for you.
Oh no, he’s dead. We’re all going to die. Get revenge. Argh!
Kind of close to how this final episode of Angolmois ends up going but I guess I’ll give it a proper episode review before thinking about wrapping up this series.
We might be on the brink of death and all hope might be loss, but there’s always time for a decontextualised flash back about a character we hadn’t heard of before in order to re-inspire Jinzaburou to try to get back to the surface of the water (even though realistically he had already well and truly drowned by the time this played out). There was nothing actually wrong with the flash back and as another piece of Jinzaburo’s character is was kind of welcome, but episode 12 and mid-battle is not really the place for it. Not to mention, I don’t care about the kid or the tree so the whole thing just emotionally fell flat here.
On the island itself we essentially watch anyone left that we’ve spent any time with (not that I remember any of their names) getting killed off by the overwhelmingly stronger Mongol forces. I’m guessing some of these deaths were supposed to be touching but with little development of these characters plus the whole of episode 11 kind of doing the same thing, there is almost no impact to be felt and you are kind of just watching things play out and waiting for the curtain to fall.
And fall it eventually does with Jinzaburou back on land and fighting against that one Mongol guy who was a bit of a jerk before (yeah, I don’t know their names either). And apparently he did kill the pirate guy off screen last week so I guess we won’t be seeing him again. They duel, and then Jinzaburou does this badass walk through the middle of the Mongols and they all just give ground but it doesn’t matter. Almost everyone is already dead and this fight barely rescues a handful. The Mongols are leaving regardless as this was never their true target.
As to Teruhi, she’s nearly strangled to death by Kano who apparently just wanted to hide the Princess (though she’s very lucky she didn’t actually kill her). When Teruhi awakens she sees everyone dead and despairs but then she comes across Jinzaburou and we get some totally inappropriately triumphant music to see us through to the end where the other survivors regroup (no sign of Kano so I guess things didn’t end so well after the Mongols pinned her to the ground).
The episode ends with a statement that there’s some writing about exiles fighting on the island but nothing more. I”m guessing they just wanted to remind us this is fictional though has some historical basis. Not that any of that matters. I don’t regret watching this one this season, but its kind of run its course and I’m also kind of glad it is done. Full review coming soonish.